Man's cancer turns terminal after cancelled surgery due to Covid-19

Step-father’s cancer turns terminal after NHS doctors cancelled his life-saving bowel surgery to prepare hospital for coronavirus crisis

  • Adrian Rogers, 46, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in July 2018 
  • He was told in February he could have surgery after 18 months of chemotherapy
  • But the operation, scheduled for April, was cancelled because of Covid-19 
  • Mr Rogers has now been told his cancer has gotten worse and is untreatable

A step-father’s cancer has turned terminal after NHS doctors cancelled his potentially life-saving surgery due to Covid-19.

Adrian Rogers, 46, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in July 2018 and was given 18 months of gruelling chemotherapy.  

He and his wife, Amanda, 48, who has three children, were given a glimmer of hope in February when a surgeon said that the chemotherapy had got his bowel to an operable state.

His surgery – typically the only way to cure bowel cancer – was scheduled for early April at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

But when Covid-19 hit, doctors decided it was ‘too risky’ to go ahead with his surgery, making him one of many who were deemed too vulnerable to catching Covid-19 while in hospital.

The scaffolding supervisor, from Retford, Nottinghamshire, has now been told his cancer is terminal, meaning it cannot be treated. 

He was told the number of tumours on his bowels and liver has swelled from six to 20 while chemotherapy was paused. 

Mr Rogers is now receiving palliative chemotherapy while his family fundraise for a £300-a-week drug called bevacizumab, sold under the brand name Avastin, which they hope could prolong his life.

Cancer charities have warned of a ticking time-bomb of the disease because so many appointments and procedures had to be cancelled by the NHS so hospitals could make way for an expected deluge of coronavirus patients.

Cancer Research UK has warned that thousands of people could die prematurely as a result of delays to treatments during the height of Britain’s Covid-19 crisis. 

Adrian Rogers, 46, says his cancer has turned terminal after NHS doctors cancelled his potentially life-saving surgery due to Covid-19

Mr Rogers and his wife, Amanda, 48, who has three children, were given a glimmer of hope in February when a surgeon said that the chemotherapy had got his bowel to an operable state

Mr Rogers is just one of the casualties of the huge NHS backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. 

Thousands of cancer patients’ treatments were delayed or cancelled either to free up beds for Covid-19 patients or because it was not safe for them to go to hospital.

Cancer patients often have a compromised immune system due to the treatments they are given, making them more susceptible to infection.

And if they do catch Covid-19, the implications would be more severe than a healthy person, with a higher risk of death.

A survey by Cancer Research UK revealed that one in three cancer patients across the UK have had their treatment impacted by the pandemic, with hundreds left fearful of the implications of this.

The scale of the problem was worsened by the revelation that up to four in 10 hospital beds for urgent treatment were empty in April – even though thousands of people with non-coronavirus illnesses desperately needed treatment.

BRITONS MORE LIKELY TO DIE OF SOME CANCERS THAN 15 YEARS AGO DUE TO THE PANDEMIC 

Britons are now more likely to die from some types of cancer than they were 15 years ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, shock research has suggested.

Academics modelled what effect the disruption of cancer services will have by 2025.

They found around 3,500 patients with four of the most common forms of the disease — breast, lung, bowel and oesophageal — could have their lives cut short. 

Death rates from bowel cancer are estimated to soar by up to 17 per cent because of delayed diagnoses — the equivalent of 1,445 to 1,563 patients.

This would cause the five-year survival rate to drop to around 51.5 per cent — similar to levels seen in 2003, it was claimed.

London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine scientists also revealed survival outcomes for breast and oesophageal cancer may drop to levels seen in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

They modelled that breast cancer could claim 281 and 344 more lives, roughly an 8 to 10 per cent increase.

There could be a six per cent (330–342) and five per cent (1,235-1,372) rise in deaths from oesophageal and lung cancer, respectively.

The research, published in Lancet Oncology, drew on NHS cancer registration and hospital data of more than 93,000 patients diagnosed in 2010-2012.

They used this data to estimate the effect of delays in diagnosis on cancer survival for four main types of the disease.

The model, which the researchers described as conservative, assumed the current drop off in referrals will continue for the next year.

NHS hospitals must adhere to strict social distancing measures and services as they try to get back up and running.  

The researchers did not say what their findings would mean for the five-year survival rates in the study. The Sun newspaper is believed to have made the calculations.  

And more than 8,000 private hospital beds in England, bought by the NHS in March, went unused because NHS intensive care wards were not overrun as expected.

Mr Rogers, who is step-dad to Mrs Rogers’ three children Laura, 25, and twins Edward and Alexander, 21, is one of the first forgotten cancer patients of the pandemic to tell his story.

He said: ‘I feel like the Government left us high and dry.

‘We were hearing in the news how there were all these private hospitals that were supposed to be set aside for people with other illnesses to have treatment.

‘But they were apparently just empty.

‘It is hard to take in that there were places where I could have gone to have treatment, but they just chose to cancel it instead.

‘I do believe that more could have been done to make sure I had my operation when it was an option.

‘There have still been other illnesses that have needed treating during this time, too – not just Covid.’

Mrs Rogers, who has been with Mr Rogers for 17 years and has been married to him for four years, said it was ‘devastating’ when they were told that Mr Rogers’s operation had been cancelled.

She said: ‘We thought we were getting somewhere, and then Covid came and spoiled all our plans.

‘He was responding brilliantly to the chemotherapy.

‘When he was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to his liver.’

Mrs Rogers, a former school kitchen supervisor, added: ‘The chemotherapy was working really well, and it got him to the stage where he was operable on both sides of his bowel, and on his liver.

‘We spoke to the surgeon in February, and he told Adrian to come off the chemo for eight weeks to get ready for the surgery.

‘But then Covid hit. His surgeon phoned us up and he was really nice about it.

‘He said that the decision of whether to go ahead with Adrian’s operation had to be put before a board, but that he had recommended that Adrian should still be operated on.

‘But the board made their decision and said no. They decided it was too risky.’ 

NHS trusts and health boards had to make decisions about treatment on a case-by-case basis for various illnesses.  

Removing secondary cancers from the liver is specialised surgery and is carried out in major liver cancer centres, according to Cancer Research UK.

Only about 40 per cent of patients with bowel cancer who receive a diagnosis are still alive five years later. 

During the time that Mr Rogers was off chemotherapy to prepare for this operation, his tumours spread. By the end of April, he had 20 tumours in his liver area.

It is not clear if his chemotherapy was delayed during April to August or the impact that this had.

When Covid-19 hit, doctors decided it was ‘too risky’ for Mr Rogers to go ahead with his surgery. The scaffolding supervisor, from Retford, Nottinghamshire, has now been told his cancer is terminal, meaning it cannot be treated

Mr Rogers, who is step-dad to Mrs Rogers’ three children Laura, 25, and twins Edward and Alexander, 21, said: ‘I feel like the government left us high and dry’

Mrs Rogers said: ‘He’s no longer operable, because there just wouldn’t be any liver left afterwards.’

But the family are not giving up hope and switched to a new target after Mrs Rogers found out about a drug called bevacizumab, marketed as Avastin. 

Unlike chemotherapy that attacks the cancer cells, the purpose of Avastin is to block the blood supply that feeds the tumour, stopping it from growing. 

The family hope the drug will give them more time with Mr Rogers but doctors have said he will never be cancer free.

Mrs Rogers said: ‘We were told that Adrian can either stop treatment and enjoy what time he has left – or, Avastin can be given alongside more chemotherapy, and that could work.

‘If Adrian was having private care, he would automatically get Avastin as standard.

‘But as we are on the NHS, we have to self-fund this for him.’

Avastin is used for a range of cancers but only privately. The drug, which is administered via a drip alongside chemotherapy, costs a whopping £600 per fortnight.

So Mrs Rogers has now set up a fundraising page in a desperate attempt to be able to afford the treatment – and has raised almost £12,000 in less than two weeks.

The ‘amazing’ amount is enough to fund more than seven months of Avastin treatment for Mr Rogers – and he is keen to get started as soon as possible.

He will receive his first dose of the drug on September 4, at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. 

Mr Rogers said: ‘We’ve got to keep our hopes up. I’m so used to accepting chemotherapy now, that this is just the next thing for me.

‘But I was responding to the chemotherapy well before all this, so hopefully it will be the same with Avastin.

‘I’m just taking every day as it comes.’

Mrs Rogers said: ‘We won’t know until he starts the course how well it will work for him, or whether it will get him back to an operable state.

‘For some people it works really well, and for others not so well. We’ll have to wait and see how he responds to it.

‘But he was responding brilliantly to the chemotherapy before – better than the doctors expected. We’re hoping that this will work well for him, too.’  

Speaking in general terms, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: ‘Covid-19 has undoubtedly put a huge strain on people affected by cancer.

‘It has had an extraordinary impact on their care and wellbeing.

‘We’ve been hearing many of these stories over the past few months.’

In a recent survey carried out by the charity, around 70 per cent of the 1,900 respondents reported feeling more frustrated and anxious about having a recurrence of their diagnosis.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, added that the impact of Covid-19 on cancer patients during the pandemic has been profound.

He said: ‘I’ve had some difficult conversations with patients throughout the pandemic to explain adjustments to their treatment plans.

‘It has been a stressful and lonely time for many patients, worried about coming to hospital for fear of catching the virus or having their treatment delayed or altered.’ 

To donate to Mr Roger’s treatment, visit GoFundMe.

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